We believe that children deserve to have both parents in their lives whenever possible, despite difficult divorces and imperfect parents. Unless something truly awful has happened, in our experience we feel it is important to be in touch with both parents. Parents are a big part of our roots and history, and knowing where we come from can be so important. Not knowing our own parents can feel like there is an empty space in our hearts, and this can hold us back from moving forward in our lives.
We (Sarah and Linnea) lost contact with one of our parents because we felt we had to do so to make our other parent happy, and that is not cool for us today. We wish we could have stayed friends with both parents even though they got separated or divorced and stopped liking each other. We felt forced to reject one of our parents and our childhoods were overshadowed by that loss.
If you are a child that is hurting because you are disconnected from a parent, we understand that this is a painful place to be. Take the time you need to figure out how you feel and get help from a trusted adult who can support you. You deserve to know both of your parents as long as it is safe to do so. Remember: it is not your fault that you were disconnected from one of your parents. You cannot undo what was done to you. What you can do is claim your right to know both of your parents and their families as long as it is safe to do so.
This is a checklist for children affected by divorce and custodial battles: If any of these apply to you, know that you’re not alone!
Do you feel like you have to choose between your parents or otherwise take sides?
Do you feel guilty for feeling closer to one parent than the other, or for wanting to spend more time with one of them?
Are you afraid to upset one of your parents by talking about the other parent? Do you have to be careful with what you say? Do you feel bad for loving both of your parents?
Do your siblings or extended family (grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.) put pressure on you to hate or feel angry at one of your parents, or try to make you feel guilty for loving one of your parents?
Do you feel different or alienated from members of your family because of what has happened?
Was your name changed? If so, are you comfortable with the name you use today? Do you have trouble with the name you are called, or the name you gave up?
Did you ever have to pretend to be the opposite sex?
Has your religion been changed or affected? Are you happy with your spiritual beliefs? Are some members of your family more or less religious than you, or practice a different religion? How does this affect you and your relationships?
Do you wonder what life would have been like if you were not abducted, or if your parents did not get divorced? Are these thoughts very painful?
Do you feel responsible for “making up” for what happened, and having perfect relationships with the people you were separated from?
How was your school experience? Were you able to go to school while hiding? Do you want to make up schooling you’ve missed but are having trouble?
Do you want to make changes in your life but are afraid to upset your parents?
Have you had significant problems with any of the following issues: eating disorders, depression, drug or alcohol abuse, anger, fear, grief or sexual abuse? To the point that they interfere with your daily life?
-Many children who have dealt with high-conflict divorce or parental abduction have had to endure some or all of the issues listed above. It is possible to heal and you will get through it.
So how to deal?
There are many ways to deal with these painful and difficult matters. You will find general tools in these pages, but it is important to talk about your feelings with trusted adults. If you can, get help and support from a therapist, counselor or other resources to help you get through. You don´t need to carry the burden alone; you are not responsible for your parent´s feelings!
It is fine for you to have good contact with one or both parents, even if one or both of them have not always done or said the right things. Of course, serious abuse or violence may be a very good reason to limit or stop contact with a parent.
However, if your parents pressure you to choose between them or take sides because they are angry at one another or don´t like each other, you don´t have to choose between them. You can love them both and have contact with both parents and your extended families. That is your birthright.
Divorce and separation can be so difficult on kids.
Many kids think that they need to fix things for their parents, or make them feel better. No, kids don´t need to take on that burden. It´s hard enough to deal with your own feelings about the divorce. You can support your parents by telling them that you and they need them to work on healing and moving on, and helping you to have good contact with both parents. When parents take good care of themselves and get lots of support from friends and helpful adults, it will help all of you do better. Parents want the best for their kids, but can sometimes lose track of what is best when they are feeling very sad and angry.
Hugs to you!